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Scottish euthanasia bill fails

more: Articles, Scotland, Articles/Scotland

12th December 2005

Jeremy Purvis's final proposal for a bill 'to allow for a mentally capable, terminally ill adult the right to receive medical assistance to die' was lodged on 25 October 2005. Under the rules which regulate Members' Bills, a proposal of this kind must attract 18 supporters (including members of at least half of the political parties or groups represented on the Parliamentary Bureau) within one month if it is to continue through the legislative process. Thankfully Jeremy Purvis's proposal attracted only five supporters within the allotted time period. This means that his proposed Right to Die for the Terminally Ill Bill will not proceed.

Theoretically Jeremy Purvis could lodge a proposal 'in the same or similar terms' once 6 months has passed. (This is stated in rule 9.14.12 of the Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, which is accessible at However it looks very unlikely that a second submission will be considered in the near future because:

  • His (Lib Dem) Party is not very pleased with him going alone in this
  • Scotland has a Parliamentary election in 2007 and nobody wants to 'rock the boat' in this after the nightmare of Section 28 (teaching homosexuality in schools) for the government in Scotland.

In the lead up to this decision the Scottish Parliament Cross-Parliamentary Group on Palliative Care had met on 16 November. There were about forty people present - including representatives from patients' groups, senior palliative care clinicians- both nurses and doctors, academics, psychologists, chaplains and ethicists.

Many expressed concern about the misinformation given by MSP Jeremy Purvis publicising the results of his consultation (see last e-Bulletin), contemplating the legalisation of Euthanasia/Assisted Dying. It was pointed out to Mr Purvis that he had asked narrative questions, but presented the results numerically. He stated that of the 616 responses, 56% were in favour, 33% against and banner headlines in most Scots papers proclaimed 'MSP says majority of Scots want right to die'. However some of these responses came from individuals and others from large organisation or groups of organisations.

[The consultation responses to are available at]

It was very concerning that some of the respondents who were marginalized by this misleading counting process were those who work closely with dying people, several of whom had taken a great deal of time, thought and preparation in their responses. These included The Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care (SPPC), an umbrella body for 53 organisations, including all Health Boards, Hospices and many community teams caring for the dying representing thousands of people. SPPC had held a Day Conference on the Purvis proposals and came down resoundingly against.

Other major organisations opposing Euthanasia/Assisted Dying included Marie Curie Cancer Care, the British Geriatric Society (Scotland), the Christian Medical Fellowship in Scotland, the Nurses Christian Fellowship. These are all professional organisations each representing at least 100-200 individuals, many of whom have great experience and expertise in the care of the dying, in a similar manner to SPPC.

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